From the Archives: How to write a (good) application story in the next week

By | February 20, 2012

[Editor’s note: This post originally went up around this time last year, but here it is again for anyone who’s relatively new to the Alpha blog. Enjoy!]

Some of you, no doubt, are very diligent human beings who don’t know the meaning of the word “procrastinate.” You plan your weekend activities by Monday night, you eat your dinner for breakfast, and you finished your Alpha application story six weeks ago.

If that’s you, then this blog post may hold little value for you. But let’s say that you’re like, well, me. You’re a procrastinator. Perhaps you have written only a few paragraphs of your application story. Perhaps you haven’t started writing at all.

If so, then let’s face it: you’re behind the curve. But all is not lost! You still have a week until the application deadline (March 1), and many great stories — heck, even some pretty decent novels — have been written in less time than that. Still, you’ll need to pay close attention to the clock. Now is not the moment to attempt a wildly experimental rhyming epic written entirely in ancient Greek. Now is the time to play to your strengths: to write the story you know how to write, and to write it well.

Some advice from a serial procrastinator:

Aim short, but not too short. Alpha application stories can be anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 words long — a very wide range. The short end of that spectrum is just barely longer than a short-short; the long end is just barely shorter than a novelette. Clearly, it would be far easier to write 2,000 words than 6,000 words over the next week.

That said, please don’t cheat yourself by writing so few words that you fail to tell a story at all. Having read Alpha applications for the last 10 years, I can tell you that, very often, 2,000-word application stories aren’t really stories. They’re vignettes, or they’re fragments, or they’re jokes. If you can tell a complete story in 2,000 words, then by all means, do it, but I’d rather see a 3,000 word story than a 2,000 word build-up to a bad punchline.

Lean on plot skeletons. “Plot skeletons” are very, very general outlines that are shared by literally thousands of stories. If you have a great idea but don’t yet know how to turn it into a full-fledged story, a plot skeleton can provide a useful starting point.

The most famous plot skeleton is probably the seven-point plot. This version is attributed to Algis Budrys:

(1) A character…
(2) in a context…
(3) has a problem.
(4) The character tries to solve the problem…
(5) but experiences an unexpected failure.
(6) The character tries again to solve the problem, using new knowledge or tools, and either fails or succeeds.
(7) Denouement — that is, a resolution or validation of the character’s actions.

Using the seven-point plot does not guarantee that your story will be brilliant or even readable, but it at least guarantees that you’ll tell a complete story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Here’s another of my favorite plot skeletons: the three-scene story. In the first scene, establish your character’s life. In the second scene, show an incident that totally rocks your character’s world. In the third scene, show your character’s new equilibrium.

Outline. Yes, seriously! You might feel that, with only a week until the application deadline, you don’t have time to outline. But if you just start scribbling with no sense of your destination, you’re at risk of discovering, a day before your application is due, that your story just won’t work — that you’ve overlooked a plot hole or don’t know how to resolve a climactic fight.

So I’d urge you to outline your story before you begin writing. An outline doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t have to be formal. It doesn’t even have to be written down. Just make sure that you know, in your bones, how your story will unspool.

My favorite outlining method: use one index card for each scene in your story. Write three bullet points on each card, describing where the scene begins, what happens, and where the scene ends. I generally assume that my average scene will contain about a thousand words, so for an Alpha application piece, you’ll want to fill up between two and six cards. (I often outline a story half a dozen times or more, essentially “rewriting” the story again and again — and hopefully improving it each time — before I ever write a first draft.)

The perfect is the enemy of the good. It simply is not possible to write a perfect story in a week. It is very possible, however, to write a good story.

So don’t try to be perfect. Sure, hold yourself to high standards. If you write a scene and it’s flat-out bad, discard it. But if you write a perfectly serviceable scene that isn’t quite as good as you’d like, just keep going. Write another scene. Then another. When you’re done, use whatever time you have left to polish. You’ll do far better to submit a finished story, even if it’s only pretty good, than to submit a half-finished “masterpiece.”

Do what works for you. If one of the “rules” above struck you as misguided, foolish, or just not in keeping with your personal style, ignore it. If plot skeletons feel to you like plot straightjackets, don’t use them. If you simply can’t outline your story, don’t. Please consider this post, like every other bit of writing advice you’ll ever receive, to be a helpful hint, not a strict commandment. Just do what works for you, and keep doing it until you reach “the end.”

96 thoughts on “From the Archives: How to write a (good) application story in the next week

  1. Jenna

    About a month…yup. Mehhhhhhh

    @Meghan that sounds interesting…totally know you feel. How long did you spend on writing your story?

  2. Noella

    I spent a few days more, but not much more than that. It just feels good to have a story finished 🙂

  3. Jenna

    I’d totally agree with that…have either of you ever gotten an idea that just seems *too* crazy and gone ahead and written it anyways?

  4. Noella

    haha well I’ve defintely had those… but I don’t really remember any instance where I actually sat down and wrote one out (I don’t really have the chance to write down many stories in their entirty if they are more than a couple pages; alpha apps are the exception). Although, that 11,000 word story kind morphed into something crazy while I was writing it, but that seems like a slightly different case. I think it depends on the type of crazy.

  5. dturnshek

    Hup! I just noticed this lovely conversation. Great job keeping it going. You must be writers . . .

    62 applicants this year, which is just above last year (51), but not near our highest (80).

    We try hard to not go all the way until the deadline before we send out responses, but it’s good to have a date in place, just in case.

    Workshops like Clarion often have conflicting instruction from the various guests–it’s part of a plan (that I like) to *not* pigeonhole new writers into someone else’s idea for how they should be writing. Letting people find their own style and methods is the best way to guide a writer to success. It’s illustrative when we throw so many people close together writing how many ways are possible.
    “There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays and every single one of them is right.” –Rudyard Kipling

    Daily confession: I get paid to write twitter fiction.

    Got any questions? Good luck all!

  6. Meghan

    Yes- what is twitter fiction? (may be a stupid question, but…)

  7. Noella

    62 people… wow. That just makes my anxiety worse, lol. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it the application notice! If you don’t mind me asking, do you have an idea of when you’ll be sending out the notifications?

    Actually I think I have a question… I’m a senior in high school now and I’m deciding where to go to college. I’m not really sure what I want to study in college, and I think I want to do something with creative writing, but I don’t think I would want that to be my only major. Do you have any advice related to college and creative writing?

    Fun fact of the day: So I know a lot of people know the letter Omega, but I recently found out (from wikipedia, of course) that it means Big O (O + mega (means large in Greek) and there is another letter in the Greek alphabet related to it, Omicron (O + micron, small O). They are both derived from the Phoenician letter ayin (O). They seem to be the only letters in the Greek alphabet with this kind of relationship, but I don’t know for sure.

    (To lure Jenna and Meghan and others back into the conversation), were there any songs that inspired or relate to your application stories? One that sticks out to me is We are young by fun. for mine. I shan’t say any more to avoid spoilers 🙂

  8. Jenna

    I am indeed lured back 😉

    Hmmm for writing my story, there wasn’t really a specific song that inspired it, but I listened to a LOT of Green Day while writing it…mostly the album 21st Century Breakdown.

    I’d love to know why, Noella, regardless of spoilers!!

  9. Noella

    haha… That’s great. I love Green Day (well, most of it.)

    Uh… well, it reminds me of the beginning and ending scene specifically, especially the ending… Let’s just say that the last few lines:
    and if by the time, the bar closes
    and you feel like falling down
    I’ll carry you home, Tonight.

    Really resonate with the scene…

  10. Jenna

    Oooh! Cool 🙂

    Do you listen to music a lot when you write?

    How about you, Meghan (or anyone else reading this!)?

  11. Noella

    Well, I listen to music all the time, but sometimes when I write. Usually I turn the music off so I can concentrate while writing, because sometimes when I’m on the internet, I’ll have a train of thought and I’m about to search something. Then I turn on a song, and it pushes the thought right out of my brain, so I have to refollow my train of thought to get back to it, which doesn’t always work. I try to avoid that happening while writing. But I always get up and take breaks, so I listen to music then.

  12. Anna

    Hey! I’ve been watching this conversation for a while… haven’t commented until now, obviously, but you know, better late than never as the cliche goes.
    Anyway, going to awkwardly answer Jenna’s question now like an awkward person. Let’s count how many times I can say awkward…Or not. I love listening to music while I write. I can’t recall if I did or not while writing my alpha application in particular – it’s likely that I did. But I don’t neccessarily find music to be an /inspiration/ for writing… More like, I apply the music I’m listening to to what I happen to be writing at the time. And of course, characters always seem to have thier own soundtracks. Though, I do understand what you mean, Noella; I used to never listen to music when I wrote, so when I started it was a little disorienting.
    But I’m super anxious to get the alpha notifications… first year applying and I’m curious.
    So… again hi, hah. End of awkward paragraph.

  13. Jenna

    @Noella that makes total sense. Having your train of thought derailed is never fun…especially when said thought just disappears.

    @Anna hi! Haha glad you decided to comment! And that’s cool :)Do you ever find yourself creating playlists that (to you) reflect the arc of the piece you’re working on?

    I think we’re all a little anxious-ok very anxious- about getting notifications, but it’s not TOO much longer!

    Have either of you touched your applications since the 1st??

  14. Anna

    Eh, not so much. I usually just pick and choose songs from a couple super long seemingly random playlists I have. (:

    I just started looking over my application again… I’m having a few of my friends read it and possibly edit it and such. I actually wrote it very early, in the beginning of February (I believe, don’t really recall for sure, maybe even late January)and sent it in then. Normally I tend to procrastinate, but I had an idea and wanted to write it before it magically escaped me as ideas seem oh so capable of doing. They can be flighty things, ideas.

    What about you? Are you going to edit yours at all just for the sake of it before we get results back?

  15. Noella

    Hello, Anna. I’m going to not awkwardly insert myself back into this conversation since I’ve been in it from the get go, but it still feels kinda awkward @_@. Let me take this opportunity to invite anyone who is watching but not commenting to please participate! We don’t bite! It’s lonely over here. (I locked the werewolf in the basement. She promised not to come out until alpha notification, and then depending on the result I told her-) but anyway 😀

    I’ve been looking over it, but I don’t want to edit it. (I mean, some prooreading but nothing really besides that).
    1) because I like it how it is and
    2) I want to keep the full story in my mind until Alpha notification so that I can obsess over it and evaluate it depending on the result.
    (Ok, there is a secret number 3 here – I honestly have no idea what to do with it that wouldn’t require turning it into a novel. I just roll that way).

    I can read and listen to music but not write… unless you count right now when I am currently listening to music and writing, but this is not a work of art which my summer and writing life depends on…

    I’m just glad people are commenting again after such stagnation! (If you call about what, 4 days stagnation?)

    Hmmm… Anna, what was your story about? (You’ve no doubt discerned what ours are about from the previous comments).

  16. Anna

    Haha, I enjoyed the bit about the werewolf.
    Yeah, I’m pretty pleased with how mine came out, I just feel like I’ll go insane if I don’t do /somthing/ with it. So correcting typos I missed before and getting critiques seems like a good idea. And, oooh, I CANNOT read and listen to music at the same time, especially homework stuff. If I study and listen at the same time, I will only be able to remember the information with the music playing. I’m rather sound-oriented, which is kind of funny because I write and draw and couldn’t sing or play an instrument for my life.
    And yes, four days is stagnation if you’re using this as a source of entertainment during the school day. But, then again, I should be doing school work.
    Anyway, I babble. My story was about the constellations. I vaguely used their back stories and the legends around them, but changed things up and added quirks… it basically became a story about mortality versus immortality and the character behind both. I had had the idea for nearly a year, so I’d actually fleshed out the world way more than I actually included in the story, but that just helped me write it.
    Umm. Questions… let’s think. Do you like sci-fi, fantasy or horror best, or another genre? I personally am a fan of all three as well as action/adventure (but that sparingly)For me though, it’s more about the characters. I mean, plot is VERY neccessary, but the characters are what make it. I’m also a movie/TV fan, not just books (I know a lot of writers hate movies and tv, but I love them…)

  17. Jenna

    Oooh! I leave for like two hours and come back and there are soo many (ok 3) comments! It’s lovely!

    @Anna your story sounds cool.

    Not to sound like a cyber stalker (which I am so not), but regardless of what happens with Alpha, would either of you be interested in swapping stories?

  18. Anna

    Isn’t it excellent? Let’s hope it can continue, lol.

    Umm, I don’t know. I might try to submit it to something (maybe teenink or some such) if alpha doesn’t work out… so possibly not. Just waiting in apprehension for april to hurry up and get here.

  19. Noella

    @Jenna (I feel like that was directed at Anna and not me, but) I would like to! 😀 I befriended two people from these comments last year and I would like to do the same this year 🙂 also, Jenna, I will attempt to keep the comments coming. Because Anna is atleast partially right (for my case) in saying that this is my entertainment (Alas, this site is blocked on my school computers, so its basically at 6:00 in the morning when I wake up and then when I get home, but still).

    @Anna that does sound cool, although since I haven’t read I’m not quite sure how it works out? I guess plot/character wise. Please throw me another bone… My werewolf is… sad and antsy 🙁

    Um, well I like these genres (or I wouldn’t be applying here, obviously) but I also like others. I guess with me, I do like realistic fiction and lots of other genres (except for straight romance – I can only take so much. Then it gets booted). I guess the problem (well, not problem) when I write is that I’ll have scenarios that are based in realism, but I always integrate aspects that push it over the edge into this realm. I just have the tendency. Because straight realism is so boring! (although in some cases its fine).

    I’m pretty sure this blog post has the most comments of all of them… (wonder whose fault that is – lol).

  20. Noella

    Sorry to double comment (I thought of this after I hit the post comment button), but that comment comment (ha…ha…) made me think of how incredibley sad and ironic it will be if I don’t get in this year, after all this… obsessing…commenting…investing…

    As my math teacher says… Depression torments my heart…

  21. Jenna

    Haha yes. It is!

    @Anna thats cool 🙂 Yeah I kind of want to submit mine somewhere too, but not for awhile. Oh and to answer your question…I first fell in love with fantasy, then I found horror, then sci fi. And even though I’d rather read horror most of the time, my many MANY bookshelves hold an equal mix of all. I write mostly sci fi though (even if it has a lot of…horrific elements in it)

    @Noella my comments are directed at everyone (insert all-encompassing hand gesture) who might be interested in replying lol. Yay! That would be so fun! Hahaha I’m glad the comments will keep on keeping on…
    @Noella (hehe seperate comment, seperate @ sign cuz thats just how my brain works) I agree. %100. Completely. That would really stink. But. It’s not going to happen like that (UNIVERSE DO YOU HEAR ME? IM BEING POSITVE. THAT MUST COUNT TOWARDS SOME GOOD KARMA!)

  22. Anna

    @Noella we can’t have sad werewolves. They’ll eat us as comfort food. Well, my main characters are a few of the constellations and by this deal struck with the Fates, they had to become mortal.. And it’s a tad confusing and hard to explain.

    @Jenna positivity counts. Or so I’m told. And I enjoy the all encompassing gesture I’m imagining a stick figure doing right now.

  23. Jenna

    @Anna why thank you 🙂 and your story still sounds reeaaaallyyy cool!!!

    @Noella please don’t let your werewolf eat us…

    Ok. Question time.
    So do y’all ever consciously base your characters off of people you know?

  24. Noella

    @Jenna + Anna I should probably put an adendum on my previous comment; I like fantasy the best ._.

    @Anna that sounds cool… I understand not being able to fully explain. If I tried to explain my story to you, I’d give away alot of the… I don’t know if I would call them twists, but surprises I guess.

    @Jenna I have only done that… twice? I suppose. One was a short story that was an intentional imitation of real life, and it was a long time ago… the other is part of a story that I made with a friend and two of the characters are intentional representations of us. Other than that, no. You can run into trouble doing that.

  25. Anna

    @Jenna thank you! And, no, not that I can think of… I will occasionally notice similar character traits between a few characters and people that I know, but only after I’ve written a story, and I don’t do it intentionally. I’m more prone to using character archetypes as a loose base and changing them up to fit the role and to make them more interesting. My pet peeve is characters without flaws…so a lot of times archetypes don’t cut it. Plus, if you read a lot of sci-fi/fantasy/horror, if a character sounds solely like an archetype, the story can get boring really fast. Just my thoughts… It’s how it works for me. Possibly (likely) everybody sees characters differently.

    @Noella yeah, that’s pretty much what I mean. If we go to alpha, we’ll read each others and understand even more why we couldn’t properly explain, right? (: And if not, and I submit mine somewhere, I’ll possibly link it…

  26. Jenna

    @Noella that’s cool 🙂 it’s interesting. I have a friend who seems to treat writing like casting a show…the characters have to come from real life. It’s caused her a ton of trouble.

    @Anna you’re welcome 🙂
    Haha I do that too! Do you have a favorite archetype you keep going back to (with suitable changes per story)?

    More random writing questions:
    Is there a particular author(s) whose work inspired you to write?
    Do you/have you ever written historical fiction or alternate history fiction?

  27. Anna

    I’m fond of a couple archetypes… I particularly like characters who are selfish, opportunistic and willing to sacrifice moral standards for a goal, but feel terribly guilty about it. Or feel guilty for not feeling guilty. And then they turn out to be rather good people anyway. I like interesting characters, not necessarily noble ones. And I like dramatic, emotional characters… not calm ones. I don’t always sympathize with characters who, if they were real people and I met them, I would like as people. What about you?

    And, no, to both your other questions. I have always written (ever since I can remember, down to picture books as a kid). And history can baffle me.

  28. Jenna

    Haha cool 🙂

    Personally, I like characters who are different; for instance my favorite character I have ever created was a shy genius with a stutter. Although I love a lot of my characters…or hate them. Do you ever hate your own characters?

    Hehe picture books…same here.

  29. Anna

    Hmmm… I don’t know… maybe. But usually only if I create them badly, so more for my mistakes than their character. I focus more on being able to /understand/ my characters (and characters from books when I’m reading) and making sure they’re believable and I can follow their logic even if they’re insane. Because “insane” characters or “evil” characters still need to be basically understandable if you apply their own logic. Now, that logic may be flawed, that depends on the character… but characters who serve their purpose and remain true to their own personality (see my synonym for character, hah) usually appeal to me despite whether I personally agree with them.. I guess they have to be both interesting and understandable. I don’t know if any of that makes sense. I tend not to like shy characters (sorry, I can see where other people would and they can be fun to create) simply because they tend not to be the /force/ of a story.

    What do you like more, description, plot or dialogue ( I realize all are necessary, but which do you enjoy)? I LOVE writing dialogue and finding witty things to say.

  30. Jenna

    All of them (or none of them). Description and dialogue are tricky for me because I hate it unless I get it (in my own eyes) perfect. But once I do, I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything. Writing the plot seems to fall easily in with the other two; every description and bit of dialogue adds to my story (hopefully!)

    Do you have a particular favorite type of scene to write? My favorite is writing introductions and dialogue between characters that don’t know yet that they are going to change the other drastically (ie love interests, soon to be enemies, future friends, long lost family members)!

  31. Anna

    Huh. I haven’t really thought about it that much, but not particularly. I enjoy just random scenes of character banter that become really important as far as character development goes.

    Hmmm… questions. Do you ever base stories off of dreams you have? I do, a lot of the time, actually. I have crazy dreams full of characters and plots and settings, and I never remember everything, but I remember enough to get really good story ideas out of them. That is, when I haven’t been studying so long that I dream about sitting in class… then I’m just annoyed. Hah.

  32. Jenna


    Actually I base a lot of my stories off of dreams. My dreams are either really vivid or frustratingly cryptic and fragmented. I get my best ideas from the cryptic ones…they create so many unanswered questions and I write to answer them; until I finally reach the point when that little voice in my head says “Yes that’s all well and good, but how does this mad venture END?!”.

    When you sit down and write do you have a clear idea where you’re headed-maybe even an actual outline-or do you write more organically? That’s usually how I write…I’ll have a general idea and after a page or so of mucking around in whatever world I’m creating, I have a story…

  33. Anna

    Haha, I feel that way too sometimes.

    I have, occasionally, /actually/ outlined… And it doesn’t really help. Now, once or twice, maybe, it /has/ helped… but for the most part, I have a vague notion of how the story starts and ends and maybe a little bit of the middle plotted out. And I know what the characters are going to be like, because character always comes to me before plot. Hence, often frustrated typing as I try to figure out what could possibly happen that wouldn’t be boring, hah.

    Question: Do you ever write out of order? (and then go back to check if it flows). I do that a lot. I didn’t for my alpha application, that felt so short that I didn’t find it necessary. (I’m not used to having a 6,000 word limit; it kind of alarmed me… but I had 600 words to spare! Yay me) But on longer pieces, if I don’t know how one scene works but I have a perfect image for a scene later on, I’ll go ahead and write out of order.

  34. Jenna

    I know what you mean…

    I do, occasionally. It’s one of the things I do when I get stuck in the middle of a difficult scene or when I’m having trouble meeting a deadline. I write my ending first, then I write to get towards that point. It works pretty well, but by the time I reach the end I’ve already written, the story has changed so much I have to rewrite it a little.

    Oh congratulations! I think mine was 4000 or 5000 words.

    Question: Which do you like doing the most when it comes to a first draft: brainstorming/character developing/plotting; actually writing it; editing; proofreading or rewriting. Personally I love to edit and rewrite and tweak it. I think it’s because I’m still improving the story, but it’s something tangible and can’t disappear into the dark recesses of my brain…hehe

  35. Anna

    Yeah, I try not to write the actual ending first, because I know I’ll just end up (haha, like my pun? I’m so hilarious.) having to change it. But I suppose it depends on the person and story.

    I definitely like character development. It’s just super fun for me… plotting does not necessarily come easily to me all the time, but if I have some nice solid ideas (no, no, don’t fly away with the birdies, ideas) then I enjoy that too, but it can still be hard. Also, I’m an artsy person, so some of my very early planning comes in the form of doodles/sketches of characters and concepts and such. So, I really enjoy that bit of it, because it’s very abstract and doesn’t have to make /perfect/ sense.

    Do you ever use prompts from random websites to just help you get out of writer’s block or anything? I do occasionally, but what I love more is that exercise where you write for a solid five minutes, just whatever random words pop into your head. And then I pull groups of words that I choose for theme or randomly if I want a challenge, and either use all of them in a writing exercise or do a speed writing for ten minutes on them.

  36. Jenna

    hehehehe puns…

    That makes total sense and it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who draws to understand their story (or has their ideas kidnapped by malicious, thought deleting birds ;)) Do you ever draw to get out of writer’s block?

    I use prompts now and then, but I don’t really need them most of the time. Coming up with ideas isn’t my problem. It’s turning them into something useful.

    Those are cool exercises 🙂 I’ve done a few of them.

    Oh and how do you name your characters? I usually play around with names until I find some I like, but occasionally I’ll use a skewed version of a word that represents an integral part of whoever I’m writng about.

  37. Anna

    Most definitely. Writer’s block is an evil, evil thing that must be combated in whatever form is possible… And then you get art block. Which is possibly worse. And then you’re stuck doodling flowers…

    I usually sift through various naming websites… I keep a couple massive lists of first and last names that I like, (I usually tend to write more urban fantasy, so my names are more normal-ish) and consult that. I just try to find names that both sound good and fit the character. Occasionally I’ll use symbolic names, but not overly often, though I appreciate it when other people do. I just don’t do it myself.

    Do you journal? I’m a tad (okay, really) obsessive. I’m not one of those people who can journal /every/ day but I keep one and I also keep an art journal (and a sketchbook, but art journals are different… I don’t know if you know what they are or not.) But I don’t list everything I did that day while writing in them. Not like, “today I ate…” I more just write about whatever is on my mind at that random point in time.

  38. Jenna

    I. Agree. Completely. Writer’s block is scary. Haha I’ve never heard the term art block before, but it makes sense…just another example of the awe-inspiring power of the blank page/canvas/lump of clay/wall/any other type of medium people use to create.

    I used to keep a name list, but then I realized that every time I consulted it, I stopped writing to add things to the list…If I was a superhero, my kryptonite would be getting distracted.

    I do journal, actually. Not every day, but as often as I can. It’s cool that you do too! What *is* an art journal? I’ve heard the term a few times, but with different meanings. And do you ever record your dreams in your journal(s) or write poetry?

  39. Anna

    Haha, yes. The curse of the blankness/empty space.

    An art journal is (and it can be interpreted in many different ways, this is just mine) basically a book of pages that are painted, drawn on, stamped on, doodled on, (insert on comment, with words and such to describe part of your life. Some people do really specific things, so it’s a bit like scrap booking (some people even use pictures they’ve altered with digital tech stuff, or unaltered ones). Mine tend to be super abstract, because I’m big on privacy. I usually paint the pages with acrylics and use special markers and such to draw and fill in details, but you can use anything. Regular old highlighters, etc. Some people use scraps of paper and fabric, and sew on the pages and stuff. Others use 3D and adhesives. It varies a lot, but I started… a year or so ago, and ever since I’ve been super into it. I put a lot of clips of my writing and stuff in it too. Sorry, that was probably a longer explanation than you were looking for.

    I’ve thought about keeping a journal especially for dreams, and I really probably should (thanks for reminding me), but I haven’t yet. Maybe I’ll start this week. And poetry is a bit too abstract for me. I don’t dislike it, but I don’t enjoy writing it and find it rather limiting rather than freeing like it’s supposedly intended to be. What about you?

  40. Jenna

    That’s really interesting, and not too long at all. How did you get started, if you don’t mind my asking?

    I write a lot of poetry, and I’d agree that it can be pretty limiting in some cases. But I love it, as like you, I really do like my privacy. Since poetry can be so abstract, there’s a certain amount of freedom to it. I could write a poem about a fight with my sister, for example, and someone could read it and have no idea what I was actually talking about. Or, they could understand it in a way that means something only to them, or the material meaning could totally bypass them and they would only register the emotion to it…haha sorry I’m getting really philosophical.

    Anyways. Aside from your art journal, what kind of art do you like to do?

  41. Anna

    Not at all! Um, I actually just got started randomly… walking in a bookstore, I wandered to the craft magazine section and proceeded to browse. I found a magazine on art journaling and presto. Not a super entertaining story, I’m aware.

    I totally know what you mean. And I can see where poetry would be that way, one thing to one person and another thing to another person.

    Oh, you name it, I’ve dabbled in it. Well, pretty much. I like graphite, clay, acrylics, markers, etc. Watercolors aren’t too shabby either. I don’t like chalk or oil pastels. I make jewelry… It also depends what I have time for. If I’m super busy (hello, life, all the time) all I’ll do is draw people in my sketchbook. But if I have an art class or a strange amount of free time, I’ll actually work on projects. What about you, it sounded like you’re an artist as well, yes?

  42. Jenna

    Haha that’s cool 🙂

    And exactly. Plus it gives me an evil pleasure when people say “Oh my goodness I understand completely. This poem is about (insert random irrelevant thing that I would never actually write about)”. I know. I’m not nice 😉

    Yep, I’m an artist to a certain extent…I love to sketch with pretty much anything (I’ve been known to draw in eyeliner occasionally). My favorite things to work with would have to be india ink, charcoal, graphite/charcoal powder, crayon and manga pens. I like to paint, but I don’t get to do so as often as I wish.

    So when you sketch or draw or paint, do you stay within the confines of what you see (aside from when you’re working on fleshing out a story) or do you draw daydreams or SF/F/H stuff?

  43. Rebecca

    I saw the number of applicants that Diane posted earlier, but just out of curiosity, what was the male/female ratio? I remember it being pretty uneven last year. And my brain needs something AlPha related, these last days are killing me. :/

  44. Diane

    There were 12 applications from guys (out of around 62) and 3 got in. So, the percentage of guys who apply and get in was lower this year than the percentage of girls who apply and get in. Without cross-correlating this with age or other data points, or looking across the years, it’s hard to make a definitive statement about this one statistic.

    This year, the stories were remarkable–higher quality than other years, according to Thomas (one of the four judges).

    Congrats to the students who made it in (from as far away as Jakarta). For others, please keep us in mind for next year. The average age varies between 16.0 and 18.5 from year to year.

    I wish we could accept everyone who applied. I’m hoping when our past students get a little older they start up an Alpha Prime on the West Coast.

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